Recall that earlier this year the Peak identified seven conservative heroes in Douglas County. The seven members of the Douglas County school board have instituted sweeping reforms that have been praised by editorial boards and national education conferences alike. The leading liberal forces of education stagnation have become infuriated by their attempts to challenge the status quo, and as of this morning, are taking their grievances to court. A band of leftist special interest groups, headed by the ACLU, filed suit in Denver District Court in an attempt to stop the voucher program passed in a 7-0 vote by the school board.
Opponents of education reform fought this program tooth and nail before it was passed. Now that it has passed an Ed News Colorado article points out that a number of the people who attacked the proposal in public hearings are now plaintiffs. Typical. Can't get what you want in public? Sue for it instead.
The plaintiffs are complaining that the voucher program would have the effect of government support of religious institutions, violating the First Amendment. Unfortunately for them, the US Supreme Court recently weighed in on this subject, in favor of school vouchers. In a case concerning school vouchers in Arizona, the Court said that plaintiffs couldn't sue unless they could demonstrate a 'specific personalized injury.' Per the NY Post:
Determining that taxpayers do not have a broad right to challenge a state's specific tax policy, a divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld an Arizona school voucher program that critics said improperly used taxpayer money to fund tuition at religious schools.
The 5-4 ruling affirms long-standing court precedents that citizens do not have standing to legally challenge taxes they do not like simply because they are taxpayers. But the conflict within the court rested in the majority's determination that an exception to this standing doctrine for certain First Amendment challenges should be narrowed to only individuals who can demonstrate a specific personalized injury.
Since the Douglas County voucher program allows school districts to keep 25% of the funds for each voucher student, without having to do anything for the student, the district actually gains money for every student still enrolled. Additionally, students who choose to attend religious schools with the vouchers are allowed to opt out of religious education at the schools. Those two details, combined with the fact that five non-religious schools have already been approved for the program, means the plaintiffs will be hard pressed to prove their case.
A voucher program in 2003 was tossed by the Colorado Supreme Court on a technical legal issue, not on the core issue of whether vouchers themselves were okay. The Douglas County school board was well aware of these legal issues and designed their program specifically to deal with them. They knew this battle was coming and prepared accordingly.
The ACLU is going to lose. Douglas County is going to win, and so will the cause of school choice. And for that, the legend of the Douglas County School Board will only grow.